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Tibet Travel FAQs responds to the most voiced concerns regarding travel issues in Tibet. We have compiled some of the most helpful travel tips covering all related issues for tourists. It will certainly provide the information that you might have been looking for before traveling to Tibet.
Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is located in the southwest of China, with a land area of 1.22 million square kilometers (the second largest region of China). Behind the world’s highest mountain range is the mystical land, Tibet. It shares borders with India, Nepal, Myanmar (Burma) and Bhutan. The historical province of Tibet would make it the world’s 10th largest nation by geographical area. The average elevation of Tibet is over 4000 meter / 13,123 feet thereby making it the world’s highest plateau and rightly known as the ‘Roof of the world’.
Yes, it is absolutely safe to travel to Tibet and crime rates are notably low. Tibet is connected by air internationally only through Nepal; there are no direct flights to Tibet’s capital city Lhasa from any other countries in the world. Traveling to Tibet is strictly regulated. A visitor entering from Nepal is required to possess a valid Chinese visa and a Tibet Travel Permit which can be arranged by Himalayan Glacier in Kathmandu. Visa regulations for China and Tibet Travel Permits are subject to change, so it is always better to keep yourself updated before planning a visit to Tibet. It is expected from all visitors to respect while traveling to Tibet as it is an autonomous territory of China.
Absolutely no independent travel is permitted in Tibet. It is unfortunate due to China’s very strict tourism policy for Tibet to get a visa on your own. Hence, traveling alone is not possible. All foreigners must possess travel permits, a tour guide and a private vehicle with a driver. Private vehicle is not required if you are only staying in Lhasa and not visiting other parts of Tibet. As an authorized travel and adventure company, Himalayan Glacier will organize everything for their customers including visa, permits to enter and other essential paperwork.
It is practically not possible to get your Tibet travel permit without the help of a tour operator. If you inform us 8 to 10 days in advance before you enter China, we will acquire the travel permit and deliver it to your hotel in mainland China. Under extreme conditions, our staff will manage to handover the permit to you in person at the airport or the railway station.
There is no age limit for visiting Tibet until now. It is absolutely alright if you wish to take your kids or elderly parents for a Tibet tour. It should be taken into account that there are only basic facilities in some of Tibet’s remote locations outside the capital city. Thus, it may be quite difficult to take care of the kids or old people. So, taking advice from a doctor regarding your parents’ Tibet tour is significant.
Although Tibet is an integral region in China, traveling to Tibet cannot be fulfilled just with a Chinese visa. Without an additional Tibet Travel Permit, neither visitors can board a train or a flight nor make entry into Tibet. Even individual tourists are not allowed to travel inside Tibet without a tour operator. So, to acquire this permit, you are first required to book a guided tour with Himalayan Glacier. After this, you will have to send a copy of the information pages of your passport and your Chinese visa copy. We will then hand over the copies to Tibet Tourism Bureau for processing your permit that will take around 8-10 days. It is highly recommended that you plan for your Tibet Travel Permit at least one month before setting out for Tibet. We will deliver your permit to you at your hotel in mainland China or email a copy of the permit depending on how you travel (flight or train).
Yes, it is very much possible to get your Tibet visa or the Tibet travel permit depending on the tour package that you purchase. For any of your Tibet travel plans, you can ask Himalayan Glacier to manage your trip and we will organize everything right from the scratch flawlessly.
It is a known fact that a traveler must possess a valid Chinese visa to cover the whole period of their stay in Tibet. Tourists entering Tibet should be aware that Tibet Tourism Regulations do not allow any change in the departure date from Tibet. When you have submitted a particular date of departure after the tour, on the entry permit application, it cannot be altered. No visa extension will be allowed in Tibet for travelers under any circumstances. We recommend you to decide sensitively about all dates before we can apply for your Tibet Entry Permit. Sometimes, the Tourism Bureau may accidentally stamp a longer permit for you but that does not mean your visa has been extended. Just make sure that your Chinese visa covers the period of your Tibet tour prior to applying for Tibet Entry Permit.
All points of entry to Tibet are located either in mainland China or Nepal. So, one can reach Tibet only from the several access points originating in these two countries. One needs to apply for a Chinese visa at their native country in advance if planning to enter Tibet from mainland China. From the major cities of mainland China, it is possible to take direct flights to cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Kunming and others. Travelers can also choose to take a train to Tibet from the cities of Xining, Beijing, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Shanghai.
Likewise, entering into Tibet from Nepal side, visitors need to apply for Chinese group visa at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu despite already acquiring a Chinese visa. The group visa is ready in about 3 official working days. A direct flight with duration of one and half hour from Kathmandu will bring visitors to the roof of the world, Lhasa. It is also possible to reach Lhasa from Kathmandu on the Nepal to Tibet Overland Tour, a scenic road drive which takes about 6 days with a detour to Everest Base Camp on the North Face.
We do assist our customers for booking overland tours, train or flight tickets to Lhasa. Do let us know for any concerns while someone from our helpdesk will give assistance to book your scheduled preference.
By Road: There are six main highways in Tibet namely:
By Air: Flying to Lhasa always requires a stopover either in China or Nepal. There are no direct international flights to and from Lhasa except Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Lhasa Gonggar Airport is located about 98 km / 61 mi to the south of Lhasa city.
By Rail: One can enter Lhasa through several train routes depending on where you arrive in China. These are the following rail routes for trains to Lhasa:
Beijing to Lhasa train: 3757 km (2335 mi), 40h 20m, departs every day.
Shanghai to Lhasa train: 4373 km (2717 mi), 46h 15m, departs every day.
Chengdu to Lhasa train: 3070 km (1908 mi), 36h 18m, departs every other day.
Xining to Lhasa train: 1972 km (1225 mi), 21h 13m, departs every other day.
Xian to Lhasa train: 2864 km (1780 mi), 30h 34m, departs every day.
Guangzhou to Lhasa train: 4980 km (3094 mi), 52h 34m, departs every day.
Chongqing to Lhasa train: 3030 km (1883 mi), 35h 53m, departs every other day.
Lanzhou to Lhasa train: 2188 km (1360 mi), 23h 58m, departs every other day.
Hong Kong to Lhasa train: 5153 km (3202 mi), 52h 34m, departs every day.
Golmud to Lhasa train: 1142 km (710 mi), 13h 22m, departs every day.
Xining to Shigatse train: 2220 km (1379 mi), 24h 28m, departs every day.
The ease of access to Tibet from Nepal has made it popular to take the overland route from Kathmandu to Lhasa. The two major overland routes are Friendship Highway at Kodari and Kyirong Highway at Rasuwagadi. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal had disrupted the Kodari entry port, but now it officially repaired and the border is open bring overland journey through this port into operation. You need to get several permits and visas to enter Tibet from Nepal which cannot be acquired individually. Your tour operator needs to apply for the permit you need to travel into and around Tibet.
At present there are two types of visa for entry into Tibet – the standard Chinese Entry Visa and the Tibet Group Visa for those entering from Nepal. The Chinese Entry Visa is the main type of visa issued by the Chinese Embassy mostly given out to foreigners traveling in Tibet. The Tibet Group Visa or the Group Tourist Visa is the type of visa issued to tourists those who are traveling to Tibet from Kathmandu, Nepal. This type of visa cannot be issued directly to an applicant as there are certain regulations applicable for the issuance. While the Chinese visa can be extended in certain cities of China, Tibet Group Visa cannot be extended. Tibet Group Visa is issued for a period of 30 days of till the ends of the tour (if tour exceeds 30 days), whereas the Chinese visa is normally issued for a period of 90 days. While the Chinese Individual Visa can be directly applied by a tourist, Tibet Group Visa can only be applied by a tour operator on behalf of the tourist.
In general terms, the most suitable time to visit Tibet is during the months from April to October. Based on what travelers desire to see or do, most of the touristic locations however, can be visited at any time of the year. For instance, Lhasa, Everest Base Camp (North Face), Shigatse and some other towns can be visited throughout the year although the weather may turn a bit harsh during the cold months. Nevertheless, visiting Everest Base Camp in Tibet is considered the most suitable during April-May or September-October. During these months, the sky is clear and bright with remarkable visibility that provides awe-inspiring views of the Himalayas and the starry sky. These months are also the best seasons to take up on fascinating trekking tours such as the Mount Kailash trekking tour.
In most of the cities and towns, hotels and guest houses are available. Lhasa accommodation ranges from the simple guest houses to five-star hotels. Shigatse Gyantse and Tsedang offers up to 3-star hotels. Moreover, now few government alliance classical grand hotels are also being operated in the big cities. While in other smaller or remote areas, accommodation is available mainly in guest houses and they are very simple. One can find good restaurants and hotels serving European and western meals in bigger cities. In remote areas, the lodges or guest houses are limited with basic facilities and simple Tibetan or Chinese meals served.
Getting hit by altitude sickness in Tibet depends on how you take on with the activities and cope with preventive measures. It is not assured or definite that all visitors will experience altitude sickness on the roof of the world. From among thousands of our past clients of all ages and physical conditions, just 1 or 2 of them had to visit the hospital because of the altitude sickness. The number contributes to as much as 0.1% which is very negligible.
In general, attitude sickness is a progression of physical discomfort when a person goes to a place where elevation is much higher, usually above 2,700 meters / 8,858 feet. Since Lhasa lies at an elevation of 3,650 meter / 11,975 feet, visitors are rapidly exposed to low amounts of oxygen and begin showing negative health effect of high altitude. The symptoms include headaches, vomiting shortness of breath, insomnia (trouble sleeping), tachycardia (increased heartbeat rate), and dizziness. If you enter into Tibet by train, then the possibility of altitude sickness may be lower as you will be gradually adapting to the high altitude while traveling. Usually the mild symptoms will disappear in two days and you will restore your health. However, if your symptoms continue, it is best to inform your guide as they know exactly what to do. They are trained to cope with all sorts of problems a visitor may stumble upon in Tibet. If required, they will respond quickly and send you to the hospital for medical assistance.
Although we suggest the following vaccines prior to your Tibet travel, it is best if you consult your doctor or physician at least a couple of months before you actually travel to Tibet:
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all visitors to Tibet, two weeks but preferably 4 weeks or more before departure. Typhoid vaccine is also recommended for all Tibet travelers. Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for all travelers if not previously vaccinated. Rabies vaccine is recommended for travelers who will be spending a lot of time outdoors. Tetanus diphtheria vaccine is recommended for all travelers who have not been immunized within the last 10 years. 2 dose of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is recommended, if not previously given, for travelers born before 1956. Yellow fever vaccine is recommended for those who are coming from yellow-fever-infected country in Africa or the Americas. To get updated information, you can visit: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm or http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/vaccinations.htm